Making It Look Easy : Steps to Painting a Car

Does your car’s crusting and peeling paint job make you less enthusiastic to drive it? Does that bald patch of fading paint seem to get bigger every second? Some cars look so unkempt that they’re practically begging for a touch-up.

If you’re the same as the rest of us who are raising eyebrows at the exorbitant amount it takes to get your car professionally painted, then hop on the DIY bandwagon and do it yourself! Here are practical and useful steps to painting a car that are guaranteed to make you dash to the nearest supplies store.

To give you an overview of how the entire process is going to run, check out this YouTube video of a guy who painted a car in his own garage:

This article aims to help you prepare the tools and materials you need to see this project through. More importantly, you will get enough, tried-and-tested knowledge on how to go about painting your car in the best and most effective way. These are tips from the pros themselves so take notes! Let’s get started!

What to Prepare?

Believe it or not, it could cost you about a hundred dollars from your pocket to complete the paint job yourself. While this would depend on the surface area you need to cover, the materials are actually quite cheap and easy to find.

No spray gun? No problem. No compressor? No, don’t always need it. There are ways around using those complicated tools that need training and ability to handle.

The materials are categorized into three:

1. Paint


On average, painting an entire small-sized car would need at least 2 quarts while a medium-sized sedan would need at least 3.

  • Primer
  • Base Coat

We have to manage your expectations right here. The paint that you’re going to use is different from what professional painters use which requires a lot of expensive tools and equipment to manage.

Every car color has a paint code which indicated in the sticker founder either under the hood or on the door sill. You can also check the owner’s manual that comes with the car.

I’ve found that paint sellers have invaluable wisdom to share on how to go about choosing the right paint should you not find the exact match.

2. Painting Equipment

Doubtful about using rollers to paint your car? Watch how this guy does it using Rustoleum rollers:

You can also gain a lot of tips while watching how this guy tapes up, sands, and fills up and levels the dents in his car before going to the actual painting:

3. Safety Equipment


  Paint and other supplies such as the mineral spirit are made up of very toxic, cancer-causing substances that can affect your health. Make sure that there is little to no contact with your skin and that you use methods to avoid inhaling the strong odor. Don't forget to wear a pair of work boots to protect your feet from danger as well.

Step By Step Procedure

This is a how-to guide on the steps to painting a car.

1. Find a good spot.

  • It could be indoors or outdoors, but you need a space where you have room to work and freedom to move.
  • Good ventilation, protection from dust and dirt, and good lighting are some things necessary to have.
  • Though a garage is indoor space, if it’s crammed and with very little area to work with, it’s not ideal.

2. Prepare everything you need.

  Make sure that you have purchased and prepared all the supplies necessary before starting.

  Don’t forego wearing protective clothing as these are essential and part of the actual process.

3. Eliminate rust and fill in dents.


  If you want your newly painted car to look flawless, leveling out the dents and chemically treating rust are essential pre-painting steps.

  You can allot a day to make the fillers set.

Rust treatments like Phosphoric Acid need at least 12 hours to set before you can paint over the area.

4. Remove chrome or plastic trim

  When painting areas located near removable chrome and plastic trim, it would be best to temporarily take them off while the paint job is ongoing.

5. Sand down to the bare metal

  • The best way to sand is to strip down the area that will be painted down to the bare metal.
  • Do not paint over a cracked and chipped surface as this ruins all your effort.
  • Make sure to sand the entire surface area that needs repainting and smooth out any bumps or scratches.

6. Clean the surface

  Use mineral spirit to remove any unwanted residue such as leftover paint, dirt or oil from the surface.

  Denatured alcohol is a good alternative if mineral spirit is unavailable.


7. Cover everything else


You wouldn’t want to accidentally get paint on parts like windows, handles, grills, glass, mirrors and other fixings, so it’s best to put the combination of plastic and painter’s tape to good use.

8. Prime the bare metal

  Choose a self-etching primer that has corrosion resistant properties, especially in areas that have been body filled or removed rust from.

  Wait for the prescribed time indicated in the container for the primer to cure completely.


9. Sand until smooth

  • Using either wet or dry 600 grit sandpaper, smooth the primed surface but being careful not to expose the bare metal again.

10. Wipe down well


Before putting on the base coat, wipe down once more to remove any oil or dust. Using wax or grease remover works well for this.

11. Paint away!

  It will take between 3-5 coats to get a full coverage. Between each coat, let the paint dry completely, allowing at least 18-24 hours before applying the next.

12. Fine sand for a fine finish

  To get the best finish, use at least 1200-1500 grit wet sandpaper. If you’ll be using clear coat to get a deeper and higher gloss look, wet sand with 1500 grit to remove any imperfections.

13. Polish to shine

It will take a lot of elbow grease to bring out the shine. Using a rubbing compound will bring out the gloss faster.


Check out how this guy repainted his Chevrolet Beretta for under a hundred dollars using the same procedure detailed above.

This restoration job on a 1979 Chevrolet Blazer using Rustoleum paint and rollers is pretty rad.

Essential Tips to Follow

  • First tips
  • Second tips
  • Third tips

3. Revolt against rust

Take time, and I mean really long time, to diligently get all that rust off the car.

Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for another paint job next year as rust merely tends to grow. Don’t scrimp on the chemical treatment or fast track the curing time.


This guide may make it look easy, but painting your own car requires lots of time and patience which makes up for the money you save compared to going to a professional. However, it also teaches you to pick up a skill that you get better at as you learn about it and—most of all—do it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on steps to painting a car. It’s important to me that I share this with you because I believe that the thousands we could have spent could be put to better use.

So what do you think? Do you think you’ll be painting your car anytime soon? Let me know in the comments below.

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